Let's start this article out on an honest note: there are no absolute stages to a friendship. There are, however, some loose terminology to determine what kind of stages a friendship might entail. So let's have a look at those (and how sometimes different rules apply). This can also help you if you want to move from one stage of a friendship to another, like turning an acquaintance into a friend.
This is the first phase of any friendship—you meet someone you don't know. You might have heard of the person, or seen them, but you haven't interacted with them as yet.
This is the phase of a friendship where you say hello to someone, or interact with them here and there, but don't know them very well.
For example, someone at church, your local club, or work may be considered an acquaintance. You greet them and chat with them ever so often, but you don't hang out regularly.
An acquaintance could also be someone you spent some time with once during a trip somewhere and have become friends with on Facebook. You are acquainted, but you don't spend any time socialising now that you are both back to your respective hometowns.
Lastly, an acquaintance could be someone whom you used to be close to, but whom you no longer spend time with. For example, it could be a friend from school whom you are friends with on Facebook, but don't engage with in the real world.
You could say that an acquaintance is someone you know, but don't spend one-on-one time with regularly.
You can turn an acquaintance into a friend by seizing an opportunity to ask them out for a coffee or inviting them over for dinner. For example, if you're having a conversation with a neighbour about how lovely the strawberries are this year, invite them over for strawberry pie!
As with dating, before you know if you have a lot in common, it's often best to start with something that doesn't require a lot of time and effort. Unless, of course, you discover you do indeed have something in common. For example, if you get talking about how much you both enjoy going to the theatre to watch musicals, you can suggest that you do so together!
Going to the theatre doesn't require lengthy conversations, but you have the opportunity to grab a glass of wine, or dinner, after. And the musical (or play) will give you a natural topic for conversation.
Friends are people you see fairly regularly, or when you see them, even if not all that regularly, you feel you can easily speak with them. You can talk about a lot of things, and you genuinely appreciate each other's company.
Friends aren't necessarily people you have everything in common with. Some friends you may only be friends with because you have a particular interest in common. Maybe you meet every week to walk your dogs and have a cup of tea.
Friends are people you can pick up the phone and ask for advice, or ask a helping hand with some simple task.
Close friends are people you either have a lot of things in common with and feel you can discuss most things with or people who have proven that they are there for you. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.
These are the people you feel belong to your "crowd" or your "tribe." You don't hesitate to call them to ask for a favour or some advice. You know some of them have more things in common with you than others, but even if you don't have that much in common, you know you appreciate each other's company. You have what you'd call a solid friendship.
Being close friends with someone doesn't mean you appreciate every single thing about them. Some of your close friends probably have opinions you disagree with or habits that annoy you. But, that aside, you still know you can rely on them as a friend, and you enjoy their company.
Over time, some close friends might fall away as they move or engage in work that keeps them busy. Chances are if you both haven't changed, once you meet up again it's relatively simple to pick up where you left off. Most of us have what we'd consider solid friends that we don't speak with very often, yet we still know they're there.
Intimate friends are generally as close as family. They are the kind of people you don't hesitate to call at 2 am, or who would travel across the world to see you if the need arose.
These are the kind of people whom you feel understand you on a deep level and respect who you are. They may also "call you on your shit," when you are doing things that don't serve you. Such as isolating yourself when feeling down, taking on a job they don't think is right for you, or putting up with a spouse they can see is hurting you.
Chances are you have a lot of things in common with these people—a similar outlook on life. You may also have several hobbies in common. Even if you don't, there's something that connects you strongly.
Intimate friendships generally develop through close friendships. By being vulnerable, communicating openly and showing a willingness to be there for the other person, a close friendship can grow into an intimate one. However, if you aren't on "the same wavelength" the friendship may never grow from close to intimate. If there isn't enough common ground, it's unlikely to grow more intimate unless you are thrown together by an experience where you create a strong bond.
Making New Friends
As friends fall away due to distance, death, different paths in life, and so forth, we often feel the need for new friends. Sometimes we also realise we have outgrown a friendship—our interests or values are no longer the same—and it makes our social life feel lacking.
To make new friends, you can:
- Join nearby clubs
- Take classes
- Sign up to do volunteering for various organisations
- Partake in workshops
- Use apps like Bumble to connect with others looking for friends
- Use sites like Meetup, InterNations and ASW to attend various meetups
- Join various social groups on Facebook (such as "Dog Lovers of London")—some of these groups arrange meetups
- Scour LinkedIn for networking events
If you're feeling nervous about making new friends, turn to the personal development shelf in your local bookstore. From classics like Dale Carnegie's "How to Make Friends and Influence People" to books on communication skills—there are plenty of resources out there. If you feel the anxiety is still too much to handle, consult a therapist, psychologist, or coach.